Throw Me Down - Angie, creating aprons with sustainable fabrics
While looking for aprons, we had the chance to be in touch with the very talented Angie. Angie is running a beautiful studio where she designs and makes bespoke aprons with eco-friendly fabrics. We are so happy with the service and the quality of our new outfit that we could not resist asking a few questions to the founder of Throw Me Down!
1/ Could you tell us a little bit about you?
I grew up in Sussex and moved to London in 2006, where I spent a few years working in hospitality, eventually ending up as assistant manager of a restaurant in Borough Market.
At this point I sort of realised that I wanted to do something more creative, and I had always been into sewing since I was young. So I went to college as a mature student, leading me to end up on a Fashion Design and Development course at LCF. Which was great, but it really did open my eyes to how wasteful the industry is, and made me realise that I definitely didn’t want to be a contributor to that waste. I used only sustainable fabrics for my final collection, hoping that one day I would be able to have my own business, encouraging sustainable purchasing habits through creating eco-friendly products. After graduating, I took a job back in Borough Market, working as an oyster shucker, whilst I tried to figure out what the next step was for me.
It was there I decided to make aprons for myself and the other staff, and after getting more and more interest from customers and other market stall holders, I had my eureka moment. And from there, I began to take the small steps to start up Throw Me Down.
2/ Could you introduce your business?
I design and make bespoke aprons in my little South East London studio, and have recently started experimenting with small leather goods. I use sustainable and organic fabrics for my aprons, using either vegetable tanned leather, or leather factory offcuts for the straps and for my leather goods. I strive to reduce my waste as much as possible, so I also make tote bags, using the leftover fabrics from my aprons.
3/ How do you select your fabric and leather?
Surprisingly, the organic fabric market in the UK really isn’t that big, especially as people are becoming more conscious of the environmental impact of their purchases. I suppose that’s because it’s difficult to grow our own cotton here due to climatic conditions, with most of our organic cotton coming from Asia or America.
Fabric selection can be quite tricky because of this limited choice. My main supplier is a UK based company, whom I chose not only because of their pretty impressive fabric selection, but also for their ethical policies, and the fact that they are UK based. They ship all their fabrics, instead of using air freight, to cut down on their carbon footprint, and they only use certified organic cotton. They also ensure that their fabric producers in Kerala (India) are paid a fair wage, which I think is really important. I normally use more sturdy fabrics, such as mid weight denim, or cotton canvas because they are very durable, but as I also make bespoke aprons, if anyone comes to me needing a softer sort of fabric, this is also something I can source for them.
Every couple of weeks I go to my leather supplier in East London to look through their offcuts, to see if there’s anything suitable for whatever I may be working on, or even if there’s something interesting I could use for future projects. Sometimes I find exactly what I need, and sometimes I don’t. When it works out, it’s an enjoyable process; it’s very satisfying knowing you can create something from a by-product of something else.
4/ Why did you choose to select sustainable material to work with?
Certain parts of the textile industry are incredibly polluting, wasteful and harmful, not just to the environment, but also to those who produce them. And if you consider that in the UK one person, on average, will produce around 70kg of textiles waste per year, you might begin to see why I chose the sustainable route. I think the more we can do to reduce environmental impacts, in whichever fields we specialise, the better.
5/ Could you tell us what is the difference between a regular cotton and a low impact one?
There are an awful lot of differences between regular and organic cotton, but I’ll just try to highlight a few points.
So firstly, regular cotton production requires the use of a lot of chemicals, synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. For every pound of regular cotton harvested, a farmer can use up to 1/3lb of these harmful products, with conventional cotton production making up 25% of the world’s insecticides. All this is before the cotton is even processed into usable fibres: when standard cotton is loomed and prepped for cutting, it first goes through several chemical treatments and baths, and often the dyes used contain heavy metals. And let’s not forget the bleaching process, which is necessary to obtain a pure white cotton fabric, which can then be easily dyed synthetically.
Organic cotton is a different story altogether. There is no use of the toxic chemicals seen in standard cotton production: instead organic cotton farmers use natural, biological methods, which impact the environment far less. For example, in Kerala, where most of the fabric I buy is produced, shepherds travel to the cotton fields after the cotton has been taken, to graze their stock, thus replenishing the soil with their dung. This also helps to maintain soil fertility, without the use of toxic fertilisers drastically reducing soil and water pollution. They also employ methods such as crop rotation and cover crops, using human labour for weed control. Also, organic cotton farmers don’t use genetically modified crops, which is common in standard cotton production. All of these considerations also mean that natural organic cotton is hypoallergenic.
6/ Could you tell us how do you source the leather offcuts?
Many leather suppliers will have offcuts of leather, left over from other projects. Attaining this leather is as simple as visiting these suppliers and normally they will have a section dedicated to these offcuts. It’s basically leather that they no longer have a use for, so you’re not guaranteed to always find what you’re after. I like it though, as it gives the otherwise waste leather a second chance to be turned into something practical and/or beautiful.
8/ Could you tell us where does the name of your business come from?
I wanted a name that was kind of nonchalant and a bit ironic. Like, we can be quite precious about our clothes, and if we spend good money on something, we generally wouldn’t want to just throw it on the floor because we want to look after our investment. But at the same time, we do live in a very throw-away society, where we have a tendency to cherish something for a while, before moving onto the next trend. So Throw Me Down is kind of reflective of that. Also I think it has a nice ring to it.
9/ Any news you would like to share about you and Throw Me Down?
Well, I’m currently sampling a few small leather goods, as well as some organic cushions and cushion covers so we’ll see how that goes. Fingers crossed they’ll be well received!
About our aprons:
The fabric is a light denim twill, which has been hand made in Kerala, using organic cotton. The process is very artisan: the yarn is dyed by hand, and the weaving is also done by hand on small power looms. After the fabric has been woven, the “organic cotton” on the selvedge of the fabric is hand printed, and the fabric is hand rolled. Also, the producers of the fabric are ensured a fair wage.
Although I do try to use mostly factory offcut leather, for these particular aprons there were no suitable offcuts. When this happens I will buy a skin, but ensure that it is vegetable tanned, as opposed to chemical tanned. Vegetable tanning uses natural products such as oak, bark, birch, pine and other natural materials during the soaking process, whereas chemical tanning sees the raw leather soaked in a metal chromium solution. Vegetable tanned leather however is not totally free from environmental impacts or the use of chemicals; it’s just that less chemicals are used than in chemical tanning. And of course, in the instances where I do buy whole skins (which is very rare), I then go on to use the rest of the skins in other projects. Waste not, want not!
Behind the scene... aprons in the making
For more information about Throw Me Down and Angie:
Unit 1, St Saviours Wharf, SE1 2BE | 0207 2324 676
Information about sustainable fabrics and best practices can be found on the following document and website.
Pictures credits: Thrown Me Down